In her biweekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.
This week, Susan demonstrates how to select, pit, and chop peaches.
I grew up in Illinois peach country. For me, summer isn’t summer until I feel the juice of a ripe peach trickling down my chin. I’ll sit through just about any meal that promises the possibility of peach cobbler. When the fleshy fruit is in season, I plop it in pie, layer it in tartlets, and tuck it in turnovers.
How to Select a Peach
A member of the rose family, fresh peaches should have a fragrant, sweet smell. Their flesh should be full-bodied and firm, but willingly give way to a gentle squeeze. Beware of fruit with bruised flesh and wrinkled or loose skin.
Freestone vs. Clingstone
Peaches are labeled as freestone or clingstone based on the clinginess of their stone and the firmness of their flesh. Freestone peaches have stones that can be easily removed. The flesh of clingstone peaches grasps onto the seed, making it difficult to pull the two apart. Clingstone peaches are sought out by commercial canners for their firmer flesh. Therefore, they are rarely available.
How to Pit a Peach
To pit a freestone peach or other large stone fruit (nectarines, apricots, plums): Thoroughly wash and dry the peach. Place it on a cutting board with the stem side facing up. With a chef’s knife, cut down into the stem side until you reach the stone.
Rotate the peach and continue to cut into the flesh until you’ve encircled the entire peach.
Place your hands on other either side of the cut and either twist your hands in opposite directions to separate the halves, or gently pull the halves apart.
Using your fingertips, wiggle out the pit.
To pit a clingstone peach: Place the peach on a cutting board with the side of the peach resting on the board and the stem end facing away from you. Hold the peach in place with one hand. With a chef’s knife, cut a lengthwise wedge from the peach and pull it away from the seed. Rotate the peach and continue cutting wedges until all the flesh has been pulled off the seed.
How to Slice a Peach
Pit the peach using the steps outlined above. Place one half (or one wedge) of the peach on a cutting board with the cut side down. With a chef’s knife, slice the peach lengthwise to the desired width.
How to Chop a Peach
Pit the peach using the steps outlined above. Place one half (or one wedge) of the peach on a cutting board with the cut side down. With a chef’s knife, slice the peach lengthwise into (fairly) equally spaced segments.
Rotate the slices 90 degrees and cut across them (using the same spacing) to form chunks.
A simple fruit salad showcases the juiciest gems of the season
I’d love to see your tips for prepping peaches! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!
Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Shrimp.
All photos by Susan Pachikara.
Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest.